Monday, August 10, 2015

Gulfstream G650ER Makes LABACE Debut

Gulfstream G650ER (c/n 6087) N650GA on short final to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on October 24, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream’s 7,500-nautical-mile G650ER (extended range) is making its LABACE debut this year, and the Savannah, Georgia manufacturer considers itself the market leader in large-cabin jets in Latin America. The G650ER is capable of reaching just about any city on the globe at Mach 0.85 nonstop from São Paulo–with eight passengers on board. It can also scoot 6,400 nm at Mach 0.90.

Despite challenging conditions since the economic downturn, Gulfstream has raised its fleet numbers in Brazil from 14 (in 2009) to more than 40 this year, and though the company policy prohibits discussing projected sales, senior v-p of international sales for the region Fabio Rebello said he’s confident the fleet will continue to grow.

The more aircraft we deliver, the more people see them,” Rebello told AIN. And Gulfstream is pleased with the market penetration of its G450/550 and the earlier GIV, GIVSP and GV. But one of the most successful Gulfstreams could turn out to be the midsize G280.

We’ve had great success with the G280,” said Rebello. “Our presence is growing. The airplane can go from Brazil to the U.S. with one stop, and can travel all around South and Central America, nonstop, at a good speed. It goes Mach 0.80, has a large cabin and its direct operating expenses are very attractive. Owners love the performance and the new technology–autothrottle and autobrakes are standard.”

Speaking of advanced technology, at the EBACE show in Geneva, Switzerland last May, Gulfstream reported that the development programs of its G500 and G600 are well underway, with two of five G500 flight-test aircraft already built and the remaining three in production.

Construction of the first G600, to be used as part of the four-aircraft flight test program, is also well underway now, as is the G600 iron bird, which will allow full evaluation of the aircraft’s systems and software. The two models were announced at the company’s Savannah headquarters last October.

Both aircraft feature Gulfstream’s new Symmetry Flight Deck, which incorporates active-control sidesticks, integrated touchscreen controllers, and Honeywell Primus Epic-based avionics.

AIN senior editor Matt Thurber is one of the few non-Gulfstream pilots to fly the G500 Case III simulator and the first journalist to do so. He wrote: “The G500/G600 are Gulfstream’s second-generation jets with fly-by-wire flight controls, designed to fill a gap between the traditional G450/G550 and the fly-by-wire G650.

Sidesticks are not new in business aviation–the non-fly-by-wire Eclipse 500 was the first so equipped, followed by the fly-by-wire Dassault Falcon 7X and Embraer Legacy 500. But the way Gulfstream has implemented sidesticks that are electronically interconnected and move in concert is something new for civil aviation. When I pulled my stick aft, Scott Evans, project pilot advanced aircraft programs, could see exactly what I was doing with the controls because his stick was making the same motions.”

The active control sidesticks (ACS, also known as active inceptor systems) are designed by BAE Systems and have been fielded on military designs such as the F-35 Lightning II, UH-60Mu Black Hawk, T-50 Golden Eagle, CH-53K Super Stallion and KC-390. Sidesticks are compelling from a design standpoint, greatly opening up the flight-deck real estate and eliminating a lot of weight.

The G500 sidesticks thus offer not only the benefits of visual feedback but also tactile feedback for the pilot flying the airplane. Test pilot Evans described it as “ an unspoken language between the pilots.” Certification of the G500 is anticipated in 2017 with entry-into-service the following year.

The G600 is expected to follow with certification in 2018 and service entry in2019.”

As most business jet manufacturers acknowledge, the Latin American market is not without challenges, and Gulfstream is no exception. But the glass looks better than half full to Rebello. “We have been investing in the region. Last year, we established a factory service center at Sorocaba, and since the last LABACE show, we’ve boosted our parts inventory and improved training for technicians, adding model certifications to the service menu.”

As for challenging economic forces such as currency fluctuations and low oil prices, Rebello sees potential customers as taking a long-term view. “Businessmen who decide to busy a business jet look to the future.

They think, ‘By 2018, I’ll need a G650, so I’ll order it now.’ The current economic conditions affect short-term plans and could postpone deliveries, but we’re still seeing good activity. It’s just taking longer to close.”

Other challenges include the aviation infrastructure. “The more airports we have available for use, the better it is,” said Rebello.

Gulfstream recognizes the importance of customer support in expanding sales. It strengthened its Latin American service network with last year’s opening of a new maintenance facility at Bertram Luiz Leupolz Airport in Sorocaba, around 37 miles (60 km) west of São Paulo. The 38,000-sq-ft (3,530-sq-m) facility is large enough to house four large-cabin and three mid-cabin aircraft simultaneously.

The demand for Gulfstream aircraft in Brazil was the catalyst for establishing a company-owned maintenance facility in Sorocaba, Brazil, in June 2012,” according to the company. In fact the building was formerly operated by Gulfstream’s General Dynamics sister company Jet Aviation. Gulfstream took full control of the facility last year.

We have received substantial positive feedback from customers about how much better our location is at Sorocaba airport,” said Mark Burns, now president of Gulfstream and former head of product support, where he oversaw the development of the Sorocaba facility. The company’s other main international facilities (outside the U.S.) are in London (Luton Airport) and Beijing.

The recent expansion of the Gulfstream maintenance facility at Golden Isles Airport in Brunswick, Georgia is also good news for Latin American buyers, said Rebello. Gulfstream added a new 110,000-square-foot hangar, and now-president Burns said that about five years ago, when he was still in charge of product support, he came down to Brunswick and walked the property. “I talked with customers and heard nothing but praise,” Burns said. “When I drove back to Savannah that day, I was impressed we needed to invest here.”

And so the company has, spending about $25 million on the hangar that opened in late May to begin maintenance work on six of its airframes. The company already has hired 60 people for the maintenance facility, raising its Brunswick workforce to 250, and will hire about 40 more.

For Latin American buyers, that means factory support is that much stronger. And with the speed, range and comfort of Gulfstream’s fleet of business jets, expanding a facility that close to the factory translates to practically “local” support.

(Mark Phelps - AINOnline Aviation News)

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